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Morsi death sentence criticized abroad

May 16, 2015

Egypt has come under criticism overseas for the death sentence handed to ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The penalty was over Morsi's role in a mass jailbreak that toppled his predecessor.

Ägypten Mursi Urteil
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/T. el-Gabbas

A number of countries and at least one major human rights organization have denounced Saturday's death sentence verdict, handed to Morsi and more than 100 other defendants.

Speaking from Jordan, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made his government's position known. "For us in Germany, it is a form of punishment that we categorically reject," Steinmeier said. He added that he expected Egyptian authorities to "act according to the law and not according to political standards."

The court in Cairo sentenced Morsi to death over his role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. In the hours after the verdict, gunmen killed two Egyptian judges, a prosecutor and the group's driver in the Sinai Peninsula.

Some of Morsi's fellow defendants included jihadists in Sinai, where security forces are battling an Islamist insurgency from an affiliate of the "Islamic State" group.

Turkey has reacted furiously to Morsi's sentence. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country was "turning back into ancient Egypt." He also accused the West of turning a blind eye to the 2013 military ousting of Morsi, which happened following mass protests against his rule.

Morsi's overthrow triggered a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood movement, with thousands of his followers detained and many more given severe sentences in mass trials. Egyptian authorities have designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, which the Islamist group denies, in turn accusing the government of oppression.

Hundreds of movement members have died and thousands have been imprisoned following now-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's banning of the group. Al-Sisi was the military chief at the time Morsi was overthrown and led the coup.

Other cases

The Islamist leader is facing a number of other trials. Last month, he was sentenced to 20 years jail on charges of inciting violence against protesters when he was in power. In another case, Morsi is being tried on the alleged leaking of national security secrets to Qatar, a Muslim Brotherhood ally. He also faces a seprate trial on charges of defaming the judiciary.

Morsi insists he is the rightful president of Egypt and has refused to recognize the courts' authority.

"Nothing but a charade"

Amnesty International said Saturday's death sentence came after a hugely flawed judicial process.

"Condemning Mohammed Morsi to death after more grossly unfair trials shows a complete disregard for human rights," said Said Boumedouha, the group's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"His trials were undermined even before he set foot in the courtroom. The fact that he was held for months incommunicado without judicial oversight and that he didn't have a lawyer to represent him during the investigations makes these trials nothing but a charade."

As is customary in decisions resulting in capital punishment, the case will now be referred to the country's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for opinion before any execution can occur. His decision at the June 2 hearing is non-binding. Even if the mufti confirms Morsi's death sentence, he can still appeal the verdict.

jr/gsw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)